Arizona Cardinals notebook: Cornerback remains an intriguing position to watch entering preseason

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It’s been a couple weeks now since Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury went on the record saying the team isn’t just open to the idea of adding some help at the cornerback position, but promising, "We’ll be in that market definitely.”

The Cardinals hadn’t signed a new cornerback since June 6 when they added fifth-year pro Josh Jackson, the former All-American out of Iowa. That changed on Tuesday, however, when the team announced it had agreed to terms with cornerback Cortez Davis and in a corresponding move, released cornerback Nate Brooks.

Davis is a rookie from the University of Hawaii, where he had 131 tackles, nine for loss, with 34 passes defended, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and one sack. He originally signed with the Broncos as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Jackson, a second-round pick by the Packers who also has spent time with the Giants and Chiefs, is on a short list of those competing for a possible starting spot. The only sure starter thus far in Byron Murphy Jr., whom Kingsbury has said he would prefer to handle the slot corner position.

“Byron’s played really good when he’s played the nickel,” Kingsbury said last week. “I don’t want to lose him in there completely. He’s definitely a very good outside guy as well, but his playmaking inside has been tremendous for us. We want to be able to continue to rotate him in there and that means some other guys have to step up.”

Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.;  Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., (7) warms up during training camp at State Farm Stadium.
Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., (7) warms up during training camp at State Farm Stadium.

Second-year man Marco Wilson was thought to have an edge as one of the starting outside cornerbacks because he won a starting role outside last season as a rookie. Kingsbury, though, hasn’t sounded ready to commit.

“We want him to step up and be an every-down starter, but we’ll see,” Kingsbury said. “I think the jury’s still out.”

If Murphy plays mostly at nickel and Wilson eventually reclaims one of the two starting outside jobs, then the top two candidates for the other outside spot are most likely Jackson and veteran Antonio Hamilton, who has been making big plays recently in training camp. Jace Whittaker and Breon Borders remain in the mix.

Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.;  Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Hamilton (33) warms up during training camp at State Farm Stadium.
Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Hamilton (33) warms up during training camp at State Farm Stadium.

The Cardinals could still add a veteran off the street, however, which could include bringing back Robert Alford, an unsigned free agent.

“Right now, guys are competing and playing good football,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said recently. “We can’t count on someone coming in to save us. We’ve got who we’ve got right now and obviously, it’s always a chance to add someone. But we’ve got guys we believe in and guys are working hard.”

Murphy echoed that sentiment, saying, “In our room, everyone believes in everyone.”

“We all have faith in each, we all count on each other and it’s always the next man steps up no matter what situation happens,” he added. “For me, I trust my room and the people who are with me now. I’m going to rock with them all the way ’til the end.”

NFL preseason: Cardinals depth chart: How roster stacks up for Bengals game

QB watch

For a third straight day, quarterback Kyler Murray was mostly inactive in practice. He threw a tiny bit but mostly watched once again after missing all last week with COVID. He also spent some time calling plays while wearing Kingsbury’s headset.

Asked if Murray’s right wrist is still bothering him, something which first flared up two Saturdays ago, Kingsbury said, “Not much. I think it’s more maintenance at this point. … I expect to see more of him as we get into next week.”

Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.;  Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) performs a drill during training camp at State Farm Stadium.
Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) performs a drill during training camp at State Farm Stadium.

Backup Colt McCoy, meanwhile, is dealing with some soreness in his throwing arm, Kingsbury said, and was not a full participant in practice on Tuesday, either.

Murray’s extra-light workload has created an opportunity for third-stringer Trace McSorley to get reps with the first-team offense. McSorley has a fan in Kingsbury.

“I admired him afar just watching him at Penn State,” the coach said. “I thought he was tough-nosed and a gamer. It seemed like every game that they played they were in it and he kind of had that will to win and that moxie. Not the biggest guy, not the strongest guy, but just made plays.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at his ability as a passer and his knowledge of the system and how quickly he’s picked it up.”

Kingsbury said McSorley will start Friday night’s preseason opener at the Bengals. Jarrett Guarantano will likely play the second half. Neither Murray nor McCoy are expected to play.

More training camp notes: Arizona Cardinals won't rush QB Kyler Murray back into full practice

Injury update

In addition to tight ends Zach Ertz (calf strain) and Trey McBride (back tightness) and wide receiver Antoine Wesley (hip/groin), outside linebacker Devon Kennard did not practice because of an abdominal strain, according to Kingsbury. Kennard is expected to return next week.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was given a veteran’s day off.

Related: Veteran with Super Bowl experience competing for RB job with Cardinals

Still loving the game

Starting left guard Justin Pugh almost retired this offseason and starting center Rodney Hudson seriously contemplated it as well. Starting right tackle Kelvin Beachum, entering his 11th NFL season, said Tuesday the thought of retiring has never crossed his mind.

“There was a scrum today and I was still in it, so apparently I still like it a little bit,” Beachum, 33, said. “I enjoy everything about football. I enjoy the camaraderie, I enjoy the competition that takes place on a consistent basis. I have not fallen out of love with the game of football.

“There was a coach I had who said you’ve got to prove your love every day and every day I get to come out here and prove my love every single day. So, until that stops happening, I’m not going anywhere. Nor am I having any of those thoughts yet, either.”

Read more: Cardinals WR Rondale Moore could be breakout star in 2022

Fun fact

Punter Andy Lee turns 40 on Thursday and once he takes the field at State Farm Stadium for the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 against the Chiefs, he will become the fourth player in Cardinals history to play in a game at the age of 40 or older.

The previous three were kicker Phil Dawson, long snapper Trey Junkin and one of the most versatile athletes of all time, the great Jim Thorpe, who played running back for the Chicago Cardinals in 1928.

Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarepublic.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch. 

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Competition remains for Arizona Cardinals' starting cornerback spots